Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Warren County-and across our nation-a favorite spring and summer pastime is baseball. For disabled children, the simple dream of running bases, swinging a bat and the friendships forged from teamwork was just that-a dream. That began to change in 1997.  In Conyers, Georgia, a baseball coach asked a disabled child to join in and play baseball with his brother and other children. Since then, this “miracle” has quickly grown.
The most pressing issue concerning all involved was the safety of the players. This was successfully addressed by Dean Alford when he and the Rotary Clubs of Rockdale County and Conyers officially formed  the Rotary Miracle League Fund, a 501 (c)3 organization.  In December of 1999 ground was broken on the first field.  Miracle League fields feature level playing surfaces made from a cushioned rubber, dugouts, concessions and restrooms that are accessible to all. By opening day in 2000, they had 120 players in uniform and sponsored byMajor League Baseball teams.
Since the idea of children with disabilities playing ball was a new one, the following rules were put in place:
1.    Every player bats every inning
2.    There are no outs, everyone is safe
3.    Everyone scores and the last batter of the side automatically gets a home run
4.    Community children team up as buddies and help the players with batting, base running and providing support.
5.    Best of all-everyone wins every time!
Last spring, in front of the Springboro Jr. High, our local field had its opening day. Sponsors included Warren County Developmental Services, Coffman YMCA, Dayton Children’s Hospital and many more.  The goals of the Warren County Greater Dayton Miracle League are simple: everyone plays no matter the age or disability and to increase social skills and self esteem all while promoting community support. The Cincinnati Reds are our MLB sponsor and there are many family members and friends at every game cheering all players on as well. Each person that is involved in Miracle League is in it for the love of the players, for the service to others, and the multiple smiles received when each player is on the field.  Last year, the league provided both spring and fall games on Saturdays. Thursday games were added for this season and they have worked out well considering all the rain we have had! The spring season ends May 26. Remaining games are scheduled to be played on the 14th, 21st and 26th; rain dates are on the 12th and 19th. All Springboro citizens are welcome to come and check the ball players at their best! To quote the Miracle League, “If I were to tell you about an organized youth baseball league, you might call it ordinary.  If I were to tell you that the athletes are physically and mentally challenged, you might call it touching.  If you were to see them play you would call it a Miracle.”
Today, the Miracle League has over 200,000 players across America as well as in Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia!  The league has been covered by all facets of the media. Locally, you can learn more here.   If you have questions or want to know more either call the Coffman YMCA at 937-886-9622 or check the Warren County Greater Dayton Miracle League websiteor their Facebook page. For more information about the Miracle League as a whole, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Contributed by:  Heather Bryant

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